During the IPL auction this year, Chennai Super Kings wanted to buy a fast bowler but failed to pursue their targets with the single-minded determination necessary to land a big catch. After losing allrounder Kieron Pollard to Mumbai Indians during the silent tiebreaker, Chennai bid aggressively for Shane Bond but dropped out of the race once the price passed $600,000. They then pursued the West Indian quick Kemar Roach, bidding higher than they had for Bond, but let Deccan Chargers have him for $720,000. They did not chase Wayne Parnell.
The deficiency in the fast-bowling stocks as a result of those failed bids, especially after the injuries to Andrew Flintoff and Jacob Oram, has hurt Chennai's campaign severely. The franchise reportedly rated the best in the IPL in terms of brand value doesn't possess one of game's best match-winners - a genuine fast bowler.
Today, Chennai's attack was led by Albie Morkel. Bangalore's Dale Steyn spearheads the bowling for South Africa, Kolkata's Bond opens for New Zealand, Mumbai's Zaheer Khan leads India's attack, Delhi's Dirk Nannes and Rajasthan's Shaun Tait do the job for Australia, and Deccan's Chaminda Vaas was Sri Lanka's new-ball expert for years. Morkel, the tall South African, is usually first or second change for his national side.
Morkel has failed to make much of an impact with only four wickets in six matches. He's been given the new ball but has often finished a first spell without denting the opposition's batting order. His control has been good but that amounts to little without wickets, especially when there's not much firepower to come. It would be unfair to pin it on Morkel, though, for he isn't a natural strike bowler. Circumstances have made Chennai give him that responsibility.
Most of the other franchises have a support cast of international quality fast bowlers as well. Mumbai, for example, had Lasith Malinga, Dwayne Bravo, Pollard and Ryan McLaren. Chennai possess the gentle medium-pace of L Balaji and Joginder Sharma, both easy prey for batsmen intent on attack. They have Makhaya Ntini on the bench but his form in recent months has been poor and he hasn't got a game yet. There are no other reserves.
The Indian bowlers sharing the new ball with Morkel are Balaji, Sudeep Tyagi and Manpreet Gony. Balaji has the ability to produce variations that can take batsmen by surprise but his accuracy is poor. Tyagi is still raw and, despite an encouraging performance in Bangalore, is a work in progress. Despite spending time in the Indian dressing room over the last six months, Tyagi hasn't put those lessons into practice in the middle. Gony blows hot and cold.
MS Dhoni acknowledged bowling was an area of concern, with the tournament approaching the halfway stage and Chennai having lost four out of six games. "We are lacking confidence in the bowling department," Dhoni said after the defeat to Mumbai.
But he did not agree that a tearaway quick would solve his team's problems. "It is not just about pace. Because if that was the case, Shaun Tait would've been doing really well and Chaminda Vaas wouldn't have been taking wickets." Fair point, but he would love to have the option of a Tait to try and rattle the opposition openers.